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NASA Opens International Space Station to Tourists

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  • NASA will allow tourists and business ventures to visit the International Space Station (ISS) starting in 2020, officials announced Friday.
  • The agency will now let two private astronauts a year visit the station for up to 30 days.
  • They will also open up the station to commercial interests, such as permitting private companies to buy time on the station to film advertisements.
  • Until now, NASA banned all tourism and commercial pursuits on the ISS, but now they hope opening the station to private actors will allow them to shift their focus and money to other missions.

NASA Announcement

NASA announced Friday that they will open up the International Space Station (ISS) to tourists and private companies as early as next year.

The agency said they will allow two private astronauts to visit the ISS each year and will allow the travelers to stay aboard the spacecraft for a maximum of 30 days. NASA also said that they will open the station to more commercial opportunities, such as allowing companies to film advertisements.

Under the new directive, NASA will let private companies buy time on the station to market, advertise, or test their products in space. Private entities will also be responsible for choosing private astronauts, as well as making sure that they meet the requirements necessary for space travel.

“Nasa is opening the International Space Station to commercial opportunities and marketing these opportunities as we’ve never done before,” said NASA’s chief financial officer Jeff DeWit, but it also comes at a cost.

NASA has said it will charge companies around $35,000 a night to stay on the ISS, but the price tag for shuttling the astronauts to and from the space station will be set by the private companies themselves. DeWit estimated that the cost would be around $50 million a seat.

NASA has already contracted with SpaceX and Boeing to send flight crews to ISS.

A New Era

NASA’s decision marks a significant shift for the agency, which had previously prohibited tourism and commercial activities on the ISS.

While countries like Russia have sent multiple private astronauts on the station, the U.S. space agency has limited commercial activity on their side of the ISS to science experiments, and purely commercial projects were not allowed.

Now, the space station will be open to a wide range of possibilities. “We have no idea what kinds of creativity and literally out of the world ideas can come from private industry,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s head of human exploration.

A Move to Privatization

The announcement is a step towards NASA’s plan to eventually privatize the ISS entirely.

NASA hopes that allowing private interests on the ISS will generate additional revenue for the agency. According to The Verge, operating the ISS costs NASA $3 to $4 billion a year. Giving control of the ISS to private companies could open up more money for NASA to pursue other missions.

NASA is trying to send humans on a mission to the moon by 2024, and the agency has already said that they would need significantly more funding to do so.

Opening the space station to private companies also fits into NASA’s broader efforts to encourage the private sector to develop the region of space the ISS resides in, which is called low Earth orbit.

NASA has already commissioned 12 companies to look into methods for establishing private interests in low earth orbit, according to The Verge. The companies returned their proposals to NASA with ideas for space habitats that would either be attached to the space station or float independently in low Earth orbit.

These habitats could work as research sites or even host tourists. While the barrier to entry is high, the commercialization of space still opens up the potential for new and exciting business models and market sectors.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (The Washington Post) (BBC)

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Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations

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The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.


Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter

Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.


Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.

Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.

While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.

DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools

On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.

The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.

DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.

At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.

Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)

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Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance

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News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.


Federal Vaccine Mandate

President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.

While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.

Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.

Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective

The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.

Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.

While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab. 

Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective. 

No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.

According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.

While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.

“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)

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Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage

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The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.


Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence

The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.

The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.

The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.

Source: Facebook/ GlockBoy Savoo

Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage

After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.

Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.

Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.

Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.

Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.

In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.

The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.

“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.

“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.

The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.

Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.

See what others are saying: (Heavy)(CBS 58) (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

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